Thursday 4 June 2015

"Humanism" up for grabs?

Catching up on my podcast-listening backlog I came upon this episode of BBC Radio 4's Beyond Belief, hosted by Ernie Rae. It features Stephen Law, Nick Spencer and Marilyn Mason, and a separate interview with Rory Fenton. The first half is amicable enough, but considerable disagreement surfaces as the programme proceeds. This isn't surprising, given that Nick Spencer co-wrote a Theos paper entitled "The Case for Christian Humanism" which attempted a proprietorial land-grab of the term "humanism".

What is also not surprising is that such an attempt should be made. Christianity in its many guises has survived to the present day by co-opting and subsuming other belief-systems. Humanism is simply grist to its mill. Stephen Law, however, was having none of it.

Ernie Rae, host of Beyond Belief
Here's the programme page:

And here's a direct link to the mp3 audio (available indefinitely, as far as I can tell):

Can Humanism include belief in God?

Last year Pope Francis, addressing the European Parliament, pleaded for a rediscovery of the ideals of humanism centred on respect for the dignity of the human person. He said, "A Europe which is no longer open to the transcendent dimension of life is a Europe which risks losing its own soul and that "humanistic spirit" which it still loves and defends." The Pope was clearly trying to reclaim the humanist tradition from atheism. But was he waging a futile battle? Is humanism by its very nature opposed to religious belief?

Joining Ernie to discuss Humanism are Stephen Law from the Centre for Enquiry and author of "A very short Introduction to Humanism; Nick Spencer Co-author of "The Case for Christian Humanism;" and Marilyn Mason, former Education Officer for the British Humanist Association.
When the Theos paper was published it was discussed on Unbelievable? — my as-it-podcasted reactions are archived here: